12 Reasons Betty Ford Rocked as First Lady

betty ford
Betty Ford, 1938
Betty Ford
(born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer) died on Friday at the age of 93. The former First Lady was the wife of Republican President Gerald R. Ford and the mother to four kids -- Michael Gerald Ford, John (Jack) Gardner Ford, Steven Meigs Ford, and Susan Elizabeth Ford. Betty Ford was possibly America's favorite First Lady and with good reason -- she kicked ass.

She overcame breast cancer and let herself be photographed in a housecoat for the entire country to see. She made it okay for women to talk about breast cancer, breast health, and self-exams openly. She was an advocate for women's rights when it came to equal pay, abortions, and mental health. Despite her own battle with addiction, she accomplished more than most of us do in a lifetime, and she made the lives of many -- women especially -- so much better. She was an amazing, down-to-earth woman who is still an inspiration to us all.

Here 12 reasons Betty Ford rocked like no other First Lady:

  1. She was a professional modern dancer with the Martha Graham Auxiliary Dance Company in New York.
  2. She was a self-made woman. As a teen, she worked as a lunchtime model to pay for dance lessons; she opened her own dance studio in high school; she worked as a clothing buyer in a department store. In 1942, she brought dance lessons to an African American community and she worked with students who were blind and deaf.
  3. She was married twice. Her first marriage to William Warren, a furniture salesman, didn't work out so rather than live an unhappy life, she chose to divorce him. However, just as she planned to file for divorce, he suffered a coma so she stayed with him until he recovered and could work again and then she went through with the divorce.
  4. Ford didn't like the stuffiness of the Nixon White House. Every time she passed through the Yellow Oval Room she put a cigarette between the fingers of a Greek goddess figurine.
  5. She admitted that her some of her kids tried pot and that if it had been popular when she was young, she would have tried it too.
  6. When Barbara Walters asked her how she felt a Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Betty replied it was "time to bring abortion out of the back woods and put it in the hospitals where it belonged."
  7. In an interview with McCall's magazine she said she and her husband would sleep together in a White House bed, and she liked to have sex "as often as possible."
  8. In the 1970s, she used a CB radio and her handle was First Mama.
  9. She strongly believed in equal pay for equal work and was a strong advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment.
  10. President Ford complained Betty was too thin so one night she put a hat and coat on a skeleton and put it on a bedroom chair to welcome him home.
  11. After being hospitalized for her drug and alcohol addiction, she realized that there were no recovery facilities specifically established to help women with the unique problems that contributed to their drug and alcohol problems so she founded the Betty Ford Center.
  12. She had a face lift shortly after overcoming her addiction and she was widely criticized but she was proud of it and said it made her feel better.

Betty Ford wrote a warm letter to Michelle Obama shortly after she assumed the role of First Lady. Her daughter Susan Ford recalled: "Mother said, ‘I don't know if she knows what she has gotten into. She is really going to be busy.'"

Goodbye Betty Ford, and thank you.


Image via Ford Library Museum

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